The Indictment of Sheriff Mullin

 

 

The Indictment by the federal grand Jury of Sheriff John Mullin of Thurston County, Nebraska, is an act of peculiar significance to those who are familiar with the details of the war which has been carried on by the citizens of Pender and the Flournoy Land and Live Stock company on one side and Capta'n William H Beck, Tenth United States cavalry, acting Indian agent for the Omaha and Winnebago reservations, on the other.

 

It means first, that the trouble between the agency and the village is to be settled in the courts, as was prophesied by the World Herald correspondent at the time of the recent difficulty; and second, that the much mooted question of jurisdiction will soon be decided by competent authority.

 

In brief, the history of the case is this The  Flournoy Company leased several thousand acres of land from the Winnebago Indians.  These lands they subleased to white settlers on the reservation, taking notes in payment of rent and transferring the paper to supposedly innocent purchasers in order to realize money to enable the company to carry on its business.

 

Captain Beck, claiming to act under instructions from the commissioner of Indian affairs, held that these leases were invalid and that no man might hold land under lease on the reservation unless it was countenanced by him and approved try the secretary of the Interior.

 

The Flournoy Company on the other hand, held that its leases having been made with the Indians be­fore any such rule had been published were valid and refused to recognize the right of the Indian agent to interfere in cases where they had subleased.

 

This condition of affairs, coupled with bitter personal attacks on the part of both parties caused great friction, the last serious evidence of it being the arrest of the sheriff by the Indian police during April.

 

The direct cause of the arrest was this:

 

The Flournoy Company had leased land to one Watterman, who, acting on the advice of Captain Beck, it is alleged, defaulted in his payments.

 

He was evicted by the company and one Marmion placed in possession.

 

Captain Beck then ordered his Indian police to remove Marmion and restore Watterman to possession.

 

This was done.

 

Immediately following this, warrants were issued out of the county court of Thurston County requiring the arrest of the Indians who dispossessed Marmion.

 

Sheriff Mullin was given these warrants to serve.

 

He started out alone after the Indians, met eight of them and when he attempted to read his warrant was seized,  handcuffed and taken to the Indian police in the discharge of their duty.

 

The night of the arrest of the sheriff more warrants were issued from the county court, and Mullin’s deputy, with a posse, went after the Indian police.

 

They were charged with interfering with the sheriff in the discharge of his duty.

 

Two Indians were arrested, taken to Pender, tried, found guilty and confined in the Jail for perhaps a week when they were released.

 

All of this created considerable excitement in Pender, and for a time it looked as though serious trouble might result.    However nothing more deadly than loud talk was expended and the belief was general at Pender that the matter would be permitted to blow over.

 

Now comes the indictment.

 

 

The interest in the case, as far as the general public is concerned, is centered on the question of jurisdiction.

 

Thurston County is of peculiar construction.   Of its territory 240,000 acres are   contained in the Indian reservations, while but 40,000 acres are settled by whiles and subject to taxation.   

 

Pender is the only town, and is built at the edge of the Omaha Reservation.  

 

The county officers claim jurisdiction over both whites and Indians,  and that the Indian agent recognizes  this claim, at least in part, to evidenced by the fact that a Justice of the peace (a Winnebago Indian) maintains his office at the office while one of the  sheriff's  deputies is also  an  Indian   living at the agency.

 

The right of the sheriff to make arrests on the reservation has not been questioned    except   in   cases  affecting leaseholds.  

 

The Indian agent appears to take this position that he is authorized to decide what are and what are not legal arrests.

 

It is one of the most peculiar cases of disputed jurisdiction that has arisen for years, and the outcome of the prosecution of Mullin by the government will be watched with interest, not only by the people of Pender and the tenants of the Flournoy Company whom it directly affects, but by lawyers throughout the country.

 

 

 

Omaha World Herald – May 21, 1895

 

 

 

Back

Home

Next